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Professor Timothy Etchells



Tim Etchells (1962) is an artist and a writer working in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world-renowned performance group Forced Entertainment and as an independent artist whose work ranges from performance to video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction. Since January 2013 Etchells has been Professor of Writing and Performance Practice at Lancaster University. He welcomes PHD submissions in the area of contemporary performance, devising and approaches to language and writing in performance and art practice.

Etchells has worked in collaboration with a range of visual artists, choreographers, and photographers including Meg Stuart, Boris Charmatz, Asta Groting, Wendy Houstoun, Elmgreen & Dragset, Philipp Gehmacher, Hugo Glendinning, Vlatka Horvat and many others.

In recent years Etchells has developed a substantial body of work in neon and LED text sculpture, which has been shown in galleries and public contexts all over the world, and which includes permanent site-specific commissions in Weston-Super-Mare, UK (2010), Theatre Mousonturm in Frankfurt (2012), Rosemount Shirt Factory in Derry-Londonderry (2013) and Lisbon (2014).

He has exhibited widely in the context of visual arts, with solo shows at Contemporary Art Gallery Vancouver, Gasworks and Sketch (London), Künstlerhaus Bremen, Gallery Jakopic, Ljubljana and Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow. His work has appeared in the biennales Manifesta 7 (2008) in Rovereto, Italy,Art Sheffield 2008, Goteborg Bienale (2009), October Salon Belgrade (2010), Aichi Trienale, Japan 2010, with Vlatka Horvat, No Network. 1st Time Machine Biennale of Contemporary Art, Atomic shelter Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011) and Manifesta 9 (Parallel Projects) 2012.

Selected recent groups shows include The Part In The Story Where A Part Becomes A Part Of Something Else, Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2014, Version Control - Arnolfini, Bristol 2013, Acts of Voicing - Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Germany 2012 and Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea 2013, Family Matters: The Family in British Art at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery 2011 (and touring),The Moon Is An Arrant Thief, David Roberts Art Foundation, London 2010, In Full Bloom at Galleria Raffaella Cortesa in Milan, 2010,  as well as shows inNetherlands Media Art Institute (Amsterdam), MUHKA (Antwerp), Sparwasser HQ (Berlin), MACBA (Barcelona), The Centre for Book Arts, New York and Kunsthaus Graz. He co-curated and had new commissioned work in the Performing Sculpture section of the DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture, at Tate Liverpool (2009) and Order Cannot Help You Now at Argos in Brussels (2014).

Etchells was nominated for the Northern Art Prize in 2011 and 2012. His work is held in numerous private and institutional collections around the world.

Forced Entertainment is a performance group founded in 1984 and based in Sheffield. Etchells has led the group since its inception and has directed, devised, and occasionally performed in, dozens of critically acclaimed performance works that have been shown at major festivals and theatres around the world. Forced Entertainment has had a huge impact on the development of a uniquely British style of avant-garde performance and their work is now included as part of the theatrical canon to students studying contemporary performance. Taking a cue from their provocative name, Forced Entertainment's work is often concerned with the mechanics of the live event - disrupting conventions and expectations associated with attending live performance.

Etchells directorial work with Forced Entertainment ranges from chaotic deconstructed theatre spectacles such as The Coming Storm (2012), The Thrill of it All (2010), Bloody Mess (2004) and First Night (2001), through more intimate and sometimes minimalist performances such as Tomorrow’s Parties (2011), The Travels (2002), Exquisite Pain (2005), the latter based on a text by the visual artist Sophie Calle. Under Etchells’ direction the group has develop a strand of extraordinary improvised durational performances lasting from 6 to 24 hours including Speak Bitterness (1994 – ongoing), Quizoola! (1996 – ongoing) and And on the Thousandth Night… (2000 – ongoing). 

Alongside his work with Forced Entertainment Etchells has pursued a number of high profile collaborations and independent projects in the performance arena. He wrote and directed That Night Follows Day (2008) a performance for 16 children aged 8-14, which was produced by Victoria, Gent, Belgium and which toured the world to wide acclaim. The text has since been produced in a range of international contexts with new productions in Cologne, Germany, Cork, Ireland, Vancouver, Canada and Seattle, USA as well as rehearsed readings in several UK and European contexts produced by Etchells through Forced Entertainment. His monologue Sight Is The Sense, performed by Jim Fletcher and his solo in pieces made with the world renowned Rosas dancer Fumiyo Ikeda have both toured far and wide. He has made two site-specific collaborations with Ant Hampton - The Quiet Volume (interactive performance for two audience members) 2010 and Lest We See , 2014. The former won a Bessie Award in New York and has been presented in public libraries in numerous international contexts (often in native-language versions) including Berlin, Gent, Buenos Aires, Warsaw, Tokyo, London, Sydney and Dehli. In 2011 he wrote and directed a new solo, Although We Fell Short, for the New Zealand born, Brussels-based performance maker Kate McIntosh, comissioned by Kaaitheater & Siemens Stiftung.

Etchells has developed a unique voice in writing for and about performance - his monograph Certain Fragments (Forced Entertainment and Contemporary Performance), (Routledge 1999) is widely acclaimed and his work has been featured in numerous anthologies exploring ideas and practice at the cutting edge of contemporary theatre.

Over the years Etchells has also published a range of fiction; much of it exploring experimental approaches to language and narrative, from Endland Stories (Pulp Books 1998) and The Dream Dictionary (for the Modern Dreamer) (Duck Editions, 2000) to his first novel - The Broken World (Heinemann, 2008) – which takes the form of a guide to an imaginary computer game. German editions of these and other of Etchells’ works have been published by Diaphanes (Berlin/Zurich). His 2011 online project Vacuum Days was published as an artists book by Storythings in 2012. His work While You Are With Us Tonight arising from a Tate Research/ LADA Thinker in Residence Award was published by LADA in 2013.

Etchells graduated from Exeter University in 1984 with a 1st Class degree in English & Drama. He has subsequently taught, lectured and run workshops around the world at many of the key institutions dedicated to contemporary performance: Centre for Performance Research, Cardiff, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU and Cooper Union, New York, and Das Arts Amsterdam. Recent keynotes include Live Forever at Collecting the Performative, Tate Modern, London, 25th November 2013, Generative Constraints, with Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish, for Generative Constraints Conference, Centre for Creative Collaboration, Royal Holloway, University of London 16 November 2013, At a Later Date, with Terry O’Connor, for In Imagination: the future reflected in art and argument, University of Sheffield, 4th September 2013. and Keynote Conversation Transmediale 11 in Berlin. February 2011. He was a Keynote speaker at Live Culture, Tate Modern (London 2003). In collaboration with Adrian Heathfield he has framed and curated a number of ambitious live events which aim to explore the meeting points and tensions between artistic practice and academic discourse, often focusing on questions of dialogue. These include Marathon Lexicon (2003 and ongoing) and The Frequently Asked – 10 hour dialogue-performance project conceived and curated with Adrian Heathfield with invited guests (artists, academics, philosophers), (2007).

Etchells was a Senior Research Fellow at The Nottingham Trent University (2000 – 2001), took part in the IASPIS Studio Programme, Stockholm (2003), and was a Creative Fellow in the Department of Theatre Studies at Lancaster University, 2005 - 2008. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartington College of Arts, in recognition of his writing for and about contemporary performance. He was Legacy: Thinker in Residence (2009-2010) at Tate Research and LADA in London, Visiting Honorary Professor, School of Arts, Roehampton University (2010-2012) and Visiting Professor - Performance Studies University Hamburg (2010/2011). Etchells was guest curator of Exodos Festival in Ljubljana April 2013 and is curating After a War, a season of performances exploring the legacy of World War One as part of LIFT Festival in 2014.

In 2014 he was selected to be Artist of the City of Lisbon, with a programme of new and existing works in different media presented by different cultural institutions across the city and through the year.

In 2015 he will guest-curate a programme as part of the Malta Festival, Poznan, Poland. 

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